Also, expect Kevin Love, Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic to see 'measured minutes' in this first preseason game as some of the more unproven guys (Chase Budinger, Derrick Williams, Alexey Shved) get more of a chance.
The Minnesota Timberwolves begin their preseason action vs. the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday October 10th at the FARGODOME.
The Pacers haven't gone through as much of a transformation as the Timberwolves did this offseason, however as last season's 3rd seed in the East, they really didn't have to.
The Pacers kept their starting five intact, but made some moves to adjust their second unit. They signed former Charlotte Bobcat D.J. Augustin, they're also currently have a battle for their third-string point guard spot, between Blake Ahearn & Sundiata Gaines. They also signed former Timberwolf Gerald Green, he'll provide depth at both wing positions. The Pacers also made a bit of a head-scratching trade. Indiana sent Darren Collison & Dahntay Jones to the Mavericks for Ian Mahinmi. The strangest part about the whole trade? They could've signed Mahinmi outright as he was already an unrestricted free agent. Clearly was an opportunity to move Collison and make room for George Hill to be the full-time starting point guard--with D.J. off the bench. Lastly, the Pacers drafted big man Miles Plumlee and swingman Orlando Johnson.
I watched a bit of the Pacers Summer League team and got a chance to see Plumlee & Johnson in action. In the couple games I saw, Johnson looked pretty good. He'll have a chance to grab that backup shooting guard position (ultimately it's either him or Lance Stephenson). Plumlee struggled a bit, but there were a number of plays where you could see that he belonged at the NBA-level. Hopefully he can take a cue from teammate Roy Hibbert on how to improve year-after-year.
The Wolves were rumored to be interested in Plumlee. After they traded their 18th pick to the Houston Rockets (for Chase Budinger) they tried on draft night to trade their way back into the late first round to grab Plumlee. They were obviously unable to do so and Miles ended up being selected 26th overall by Indiana. I don't know how much he'll play, considering the other big men on the roster: David West, Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Pendergraph, Roy Hibbert & Ian Mahinmi.
I can't even begin to describe how excited I am to see this season's Minnesota Timberwolves take the court! With all the new additions: Alexey Shved, Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger, Dante Cunningham, Lou Amundson and Greg Stiemsma, It's a completely different squad. Gone are all the knuckleheads that made some games nearly unbearable to watch (yeah, I'm talking about you: Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, Anthony Randolph and Wesley Johnson). How these guys mesh together and what they're going to be able to do on the court...AH, I get pumped just thinking about it!
Let's take a look at each team's probable starting lineups...
Luke Ridnour: 12.1ppg, 4.8apg, 1.1spg
*Brandon Roy: 12.2ppg, 2.7apg, 0.8spg
*Andrei Kirilenko: 11.7ppg, 5.1rpg, 3apg, 1.3spg
Kevin Love: 26.0ppg, 13.3rpg, 2.0apg
Nikola Pekovic: 13.9ppg, 7.4rpg, 0.7bpg
George Hill: 9.6ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.9apg
Paul George: 12.1ppg, 5.6rpg, 1.6spg
Danny Granger: 18.7ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.0spg
David West: 12.8ppg, 6.6rpg, 2.1apg
Roy Hibbert: 12.8ppg, 8.8rpg, 2.0bpg
The Timberwolves finished last season 26-40 and missed the playoffs for the 8th consecutive seasons. They also won just one of their last fourteen games. Thanks in large part to insurmountable injuries to key players, such as: Ricky Rubio (missed 25 games), Luke Ridnour (missed 13 games), J.J. Barea (missed 25 games), Malcom Lee (missed 47 games), Michael Beasley (missed 19 games), Martell Webster (missed 19 games), Kevin Love (missed 11 games), Nikola Pekovic (missed 19 games) and Darko Milicic (missed 37 games).
The depth is noticeably better, but there are still far too many question marks to declare this team postseason-bound. Though falling short of that goal, would certainly be seen as failure by nearly everyone who knows at least a little about the NBA.
We don't know for sure when Ricky will return to court...and then of course, when he can return to the form that had him in contention for the Rookie of the Year. Then there's the question of Brandon Roy's knees, whether they can hold up over the rigors of an 82-game regular season. Adelman has said he won't play Roy in the back-to-back preseason games. Roy says he expects to play back-to-backs during the regular season, though.
There are two Timberwolves I'm REALLY excited to see on the floor. Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved. Can AK47 really become the team's defensive anchor and instantly make this team better. From the stat line above, you can clearly see the guy does of bit of everything and does so pretty well. Shved is a long-range shooter combo guard who will find the majority of his minutes backing up Roy. Can you imagine when we get to see a Rubio-Shved backcourt?! December can't come soon enough!
My projection for this matchup? The Wolves match up well at every position with the Pacers. Ridnour vs. Hill, Roy vs. George, AK47 vs. Granger, Love vs. West and Pek vs. Hibbert. I'm a little worried about Roy vs. the 6'10" George and maybe a little about 6'11" Pek vs. 7'2" Hibbert...but let's be honest, Pek will destroy him!
All right, I think I've rambled on enough. I could probably do this for another thousand words, or so. The Wolves-Pacers tips at 7pmCT on Wednesday October 10th. That's all for now, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!